205630 Tobacco industry and smoker attitudes toward cigarette butt litter

Monday, November 9, 2009: 12:48 PM

Elizabeth Smith, PhD , Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Background: Cigarette butts are toxic, non-biodegradable, and appear most frequently in studies of littered items. Methods: We searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/index.html) for documents relating to the problem of cigarette-related waste disposal. Results: The tobacco industry has been concerned for at least 20 years about tobacco control advocates using the issue of cigarette-butt litter to restrict or regulate tobacco sales or use. The industry's preferred solution to this problem is increased responsibility on the part of smokers, although the industry and its allies also argue that clean indoor air laws and the lack of outdoor ashtrays “force” smokers to litter. To address this problem, the industry, its allies, and several individual companies, have distributed portable ashtrays (sometimes branded with cigarette names) and sponsored anti-litter organizations such as Keep America Beautiful. The industry has also engaged in extensive research to determine how smokers feel about cigarette butts, finding that smokers are generally disgusted and ashamed by them, and hence reluctant to pick them up or retain them long enough to dispose of properly. “Flicking” cigarette butts is also part of the smoking ritual, another barrier to improving smoker behavior. Discussion: The tobacco industry fears the litter issue, and is well aware that this problem is unlikely to be solved through improving individual smoker behavior. Despite this knowledge, the industry continues to place responsibility for this problem on smokers. Tobacco control advocates should use this issue more effectively, by placing responsibility for filter disposal on the industry, not on smokers.

Learning Objectives:
• Describe the attitude of smokers to cigarette-related waste disposal; • Assess the importance of the cigarette-butt disposal problem to the tobacco industry and tobacco control; • Evaluate approaches to the cigarette-butt disposal problem in light of industry findings about smokers and cigarette butts.

Keywords: Tobacco Industry, Tobacco Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I performed the research, analysis, and writing.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.